Times Standard (Eureka)
HOW SANDOVAL’S PREP HAS PAID OFF
Yastrzemski learned pinch-hit preparation from former Giant
On Opening Day in Philadelphia, Phillies ace Aaron Nola was putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece when an Atlanta Braves pinch-hitter stepped into the batter’s box.
With two strikes and two outs, Nola was one strike away from completing seven shutout innings. Then he threw Pablo Sandoval an inside fastball and a banner day was ruined.
Sandoval turned on the pitch and deposited a game-tying two-run blast into the rightfield bleachers at Citizens Bank Park. The 92-mile per hour fourseamer left Sandoval’s bat at 111 miles per hour, giving him 150 career home runs on the first day of his 14th season in the major leagues.
Up in Seattle where the Giants were preparing for a season-opener against the Mariners, Sandoval’s old teammates couldn’t have been surprised. Some of them still pattern their approach as a pinch-hitter based on the way they watched the Panda prepare.
“It’s really cool to be able to learn from guys like Pablo who did really well in pinch-hit situations,” outfielder Mike Yastrzemski said.
Yastrzemski, who had his locker stationed next to Sandoval’s in the Giants home clubhouse during the 2019 season, has clearly benefitted from studying his former teammate.
With Monday’s series opener in San Diego tied 2-2, Yastrzemski came off the bench to pinch-hit in the seventh inning and drilled a 2-0 fastball from Padres reliever Craig Stammen over the center field wall. The Giants won 3-2 thanks to the outfielder’s tie-breaking blast, which marked his second career pinch-hit home run.
Sandoval, a career .310 hitter with an .856 OPS in pinchhit spots, has four career pinch homers.
“I just watched him when he was getting ready for his at-bat,” Yastrzemski said of Sandoval. “Everybody knows him as this fun-loving guy, but the second there was a pinch-hit opportunity, he was quiet about his business, made sure that he was completely mentally checked in and ready to take his at-bat.”
During two stints as a Giant that spanned a combined 11 seasons, Sandoval was one of the loudest players in the dugout and one of the most approachable and talkative players in the clubhouse. He was clearly viewed as a leader by younger and less experienced players, but he didn’t always lead with his words.
When it came to preparing for pinch-hit situations, Sandoval’s process did all the talking.
“To see that and learn without even asking questions, just being able to observe him and see how he prepared, what his mentality was and what his routine was is what’s really helped me in those situations,” Yastrzemski said.